December 22nd 2021
Author: Jason Desaulniers
You’ve found out you’re pregnant—congratulations! To celebrate, we’ve put together a health benefits guide to pregnancy for you.
In this guide, you’ll find ways you can use your extended health care benefits to stay happy and healthy while pregnant.
Why are health benefits so important for pregnancy?
A healthy pregnancy is key to a healthy birth.
When you receive prenatal care early and often, it improves the chance of a healthy pregnancy.
This care can extend beyond your regular prenatal appointments with your doctor to include visits with a dietitian, a massage therapist, a counsellor, and a slew of other healthcare professionals and complementary health care providers.
Enrollment in an extended health benefits plan, such as a Group Benefits plan offered by your employer, gives you access to these healthcare services.
Here are 9 ways you can use your group health benefits to access prenatal service providers and stay healthy while pregnant.
1. Nutrition counselling for pregnancy
One health benefit you can tap into before and during pregnancy is nutrition counselling.
Clinical dietitians and registered nutritionists are experts in nutrition counselling whose services are often included in group benefit plans.
As healthcare professionals, dietitians and nutritionists educate and advise their pregnant patients on diet and nutrition, provide strategies on maintaining a healthy diet and good nutrition throughout a pregnancy, and direct their patients’ prenatal nutritional care.
Why is nutrition counseling important before and during pregnancy?
Here is a list of reasons why:
- Helps you start your pregnancy at a healthy weight,
- Supports you in gaining the recommended amount of weight while pregnant by taking in enough protein and calories,
- Avoids or controls medical conditions like gestational diabetes,
- Prevents malnutrition through the intake of the right amount of vitamins and minerals, like folic acid,
- Prevents anemia, or low blood iron,
- Increases the odds of a healthy birth weight,
- Lowers the risk of early delivery,
- Provides you with a plan for long-term change to your eating habits,
- Promotes a healthy diet by increasing the diversity and amount of foods consumed,
Extended health benefits normally include coverage of clinical dietitian and registered nutritionist services; check if yours does. Access nutritional counselling to ensure both you and your baby start and end your pregnancy healthy and well fed!
The next way group benefits support pregnancy is through a more passive approach: massage therapy.
2. Prenatal massage therapy
A massage is the perfect way to unwind.
When you’re pregnant, a massage can feel doubly wonderful by soothing sore muscles strained under the added baby weight and postural changes.
One popular type of therapeutic prenatal massage is Swedish Massage. Perineal massage, or a massage given to lessen the physical strain of childbirth, is another form of massage for pregnancy.
Not all types of massage are right for pregnant women, however.
Always check with your doctor first when considering prenatal massage. If they give you the green light, search out a therapist certified in massage therapy for pregnancy. Look for a practitioner with advanced education in safe techniques for pregnancy.
Here is a list of reasons to consider massage therapy for pregnancy:
The benefits of massage therapy during pregnancy
- Soothes and relaxes sore, tense, and tired muscles,
- Relieves joint pain,
- Alleviates (low) back and leg pain,
- Improves lymphatic drainage and blood circulation,
- Eases labor by reducing the pain of childbirth,
- Improves sleep,
- Reduces stress and anxiety, and
- Boosts mood and helps the symptoms of depression,
When it comes to points 7 and 8 above, it may take more than a massage to help a pregnant person cope.
Enter counselling as our third way health benefits can help support pregnancy.
3. Pre- and post-natal counselling & psychotherapy
To say a pregnancy is a monumental life change is an understatement.
The mixed emotions, hormonal changes, life and relationship adjustments, self-doubt, body image issues, and changes to a mother’s identity can lead to insomnia, stress, anxiety, and other mental health concerns.
In more serious cases, postpartum depression can develop.
This type of depression can wreak havoc on a new parent’s mental health, the wellbeing of their baby, and the wellbeing of their partner if left untreated.
What is prenatal counselling?
Prenatal therapy helps soon-to-be parents sort through the conflicting emotions and bolster mental health resilience before the baby arrives.
In more serious cases, a counsellor may enlist the help of a psychiatrist or other mental healthcare professional in order to assess, diagnose, and prescribe the necessary medication to treat more serious mental health issues.
Sessions with a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Psychotherapist, Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC), or Canadian Certified Counsellor (CCC) are normally covered under group health benefits.
Now that we’ve gone over mental health benefits for pregnancy, let’s turn back to the physical health benefits. We continue with physiotherapy.
4. Physiotherapy for pre- and post-natal care
Like massage therapy, physiotherapy helps to prevent and address the aches and pains of pregnancy.
Physiotherapy goes a step further to address the specific musculoskeletal, or muscle and joint, issues caused by pregnancy.
5 ways physiotherapy benefits pregnant women
- Pelvic girdle pain – The most common complaint that pushes pregnant women to seek out a physiotherapist, pelvic pain can start during pregnancy or labour and continue after delivery.
- Low back pain & sciatica – Pregnancy-related low back pain is another very common reason pregnant women see a physiotherapist. Sciatica, for example, a type of nerve pain that radiates down the backs of the legs, can be caused by a loss of stability of the Sacroiliac (SI) joints located at the base of the spine and back of the pelvis.
- Dyspareunia (painful intercourse) – A common sexual dysfunction caused by changes to the pelvic floor muscles. Physiotherapists help to rehab these muscles to lessen or eliminate pain during sex.
- Incontinence – Caused by changes to the pelvic floor muscles, urinary incontinence is (yet another) common side effect of pregnancy that can be helped by physiotherapy.
- Postpartum treatment – Physiotherapy treatments given after birth to ease pelvic floor pain and help it heal.
How physiotherapists help pregnant women
When searching out a physiotherapist while pregnant, we recommend finding one experienced in women’s health, pelvic health, and pregnancy. Health benefits cover treatments offered by these specialists.
These experts can teach you about:
- Exercises to improve the strength and control of the pelvic muscles,
- Breathing techniques and exercises to relax pelvic floor muscles,
- Ways to make labour and delivery easier,
- Postures, positions, and lifting techniques while pregnant,
- The use of supports for the pelvic girdle,
- Other options (e.g., acupuncture) to further help with pain management or muscle relaxation.
Another modality that can help with pain management is chiropractic. We’ll talk about this treatment type next.
5. Chiropractic for prenatal and postpartum care
Group health benefits cover chiropractic practitioner services for pregnancy on top of physio and massage therapy.
How can chiropractic treatments help during pregnancy?
- Reduce pelvic, back, sacrum, and ligament pain – Spinal manipulation, joint mobilization, and soft tissue therapies can help with pain management.
- Relieve tired, sore muscles – Treatments and recommended exercises can help address the postural changes caused by pregnancy.
- Morning sickness.
- Help prepare for delivery – A chiropractor can recommend exercises and stretches to help prepare your body for childbirth. Chiropractic treatment can also aid with a breech baby, reduce the length of labor and delivery, and help you avoid the need for a cesarean section.
On top of massage therapy, physiotherapy, and chiropractic, there’s another modability you can add to your health benefits arsenal: acupuncture. Let’s cover this service next.
6. Acupuncture for pregnancy
How acupuncture helps during pregnancy
- Treat back, sciatic, pelvic, and other joint pain
- Reduce headaches
- Manage morning sickness – Reduces nausea and vomiting
- Help acid reflux and heartburn
- Help fatigue
- Reduce anxiety and stress
- Manage the symptoms of depression
- Improve sleep
- Manage high blood pressure
- Prevent constipation and bloating
- Prevent or treat edema and other circulation problems, e.g., leg swelling
Before childbirth, acupuncture can: help induce labour, promote the relaxation of the pelvic floor muscles, and stimulate uterine contractions
During childbirth, acupuncture can: help with preterm labour, a breech, pain, shorten labour and delivery, help the baby descend, treat slow labour, decrease the need for medication, reduce the chances of a caesarean section, manage pain, prevent miscarriage, and treat a placenta that won’t deliver.
Another complementary therapy covered by most health benefits shown to help pregnancy is osteopathy. Read on to learn more about this lesser known practice.
7. Osteopathy for pregnancy, labour, and delivery
Osteopathy is a lesser-known therapy that can be used during pregnancy.
How can osteopathy health benefits help pregnancy?
- Manage pain and pelvic pain especially in the third trimester
- Relieve leg swelling
- Treat digestive system issues like constipation
- Maintain bone alignment and muscular flexibility
- Improve the mobility of your diaphragm which helps with shortness of breath
- Relieve rib discomfort and improves the flexibility of the ribcage
- Treats heartburn
- Reduces the risk of pubic symphysis and diastasis recti (the separation of the pelvic bones and abdominal muscles, respectively)
- Reduces tension in the pelvic ligaments and pelvic floor muscles
- Improves the flexibility of the pelvic floors muscles which can make for an easier labor and delivery
- Helps to manage and ease stress and anxiety
- Craniosacral Therapy techniques can help treat headaches
- Help with ectopic pregnancies
- Helps improve certain aspects of labour
Most group health benefits now cover the practice of osteopathy for pregnancy. As with other professional healthcare and complementary practitioners, it’s essential you search out an expert who is a specialist and certified to work with pregnant women.
Where complementary modalities are concerned, we now move on to naturopathic medicine as an alternative therapy for pregnancy.
8. Naturopathy for prenatal health
Source: microgen/Envato Elements
Naturopathic medicine combines multiple therapies, including some of the ones we’ve already mentioned in this article (massage therapy, acupuncture, and nutritional counseling), along with exercise and herbs to help treat a number of health issues.
Research has shown naturopathy can help during pregnancy, labour, and after delivery.
How can naturopathic medicine health benefits help with pregnancy?
- Fertility issues
- Digestive problems
- Morning sickness (nausea and vomiting)
- Hemorrhoids / Varicose Veins
- Gestational diabetes
- Yeast infections
- Edema or swelling
- Musculoskeletal (muscle and joint) pain and discomfort
- Labour and post-natal concerns (induce labour, stalled labour, breech, and help with perineal healing)
When searching out a naturopathic specialist, find a Naturopathic Physician/Doctor (ND) or a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine (NMD).
Some traditional healthcare providers, such as doctors, chiropractors, osteopathic doctors, and nurses also practice naturopathic medicine.
Before visiting a ND, check with your extended health benefits provider to ensure this type of therapy is covered by your plan.
The final way that health benefits can help during pregnancy is through prescription drug coverage.
9. Prescription drug coverage for pregnancy
Soon-to-be parents understandably wonder whether taking prescription medication while pregnant is safe.
The good news is that research says taking medication during pregnancy is common, safe, and increasing over the past decades.
There are certain situations where your doctor will prescribe medication to you while pregnant. For example, if you are diagnosed with a urinary tract infection or gestational diabetes, medication can help to control it.
Talk with your obstetrician if you have concerns about medication during your pregnancy and what additional lifestyle changes you can make (e.g., exercise and diet changes) to further help your specific situation.
What if you don’t have health benefits that cover prescription medications?
If you do not have group health benefits, the Government of Alberta has a program to help low-income families cover the costs of prescription medication.
Now that we’ve gone over what is covered by your healthy benefits while pregnant, let’s briefly talk about what’s not covered.
What is not covered by extended health benefits for pregnancy
1. Midwifery Services
If you don’t see midwife services under your extended health benefits plan, it’s because midwifery became publicly funded under Alberta Health Services in 2009.
For more information on midwifery services in Alberta, visit the AHS website.
2. Fitness & exercise classes, and gym memberships
Don’t let the lack of fitness health benefits trick you into thinking exercise while pregnant isn’t important; quite the contrary.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends pregnant women exercise 3-4 times/week for at least 15 mins at a moderate intensity. Recommended exercises include walking, swimming, yoga, and pelvic floor/core training.
Exercise while pregnant will help control weight gain, boost mood, reduce stress, improve strength and flexibility, reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, ease labour, and speed post-birth recovery.
The golden rule for fitness and pregnancy: get regular exercise!
3. Prenatal classes
Like midwifery, prenatal classes are not covered by your health benefits plan because they’re addressed by your government health plan.
There are also primary care clinics in various parts of Alberta which offer specialized courses and programs for pregnancy.
How to choose the right health benefit for pregnancy?
When deciding which therapy(ies) to use for your pregnancy, it’s important to have an open and honest conversation with your obstetrician.
They’ll be able to help you weigh the pros and cons of each therapy, including when to undertake each, which ones to avoid for your particular pregnancy, and which will offer you the greatest benefit.
Once you’re given the ok by your doctor, research therapists. Make sure the one you chose is certified in specific prenatal training and has extensive experience working with pregnant women.
What to do once baby arrives
Congratulations! You’re a new parent.
Once you’ve taken time to adjust to the new love in your life, we recommend you contact your group health benefits provider to tell them the good news.
With the birth or adoption of a child, you now have a new dependent. In order for them to be covered under your group benefits plan, you’ll need to provide important information like their birth date and location of birth to your plan provider.
Depending on the provider, you have anywhere from 30-60 days to let them know about a new dependent on your plan.
In some cases, you’ll be able to make the addition to your plan right on your provider’s website; in others, you’ll have to call them to provide the details about your little one.
How we help with health benefits for pregnancy
Specifically, the Chambers Plan Health options cover up to $600 per person per type of service per calendar year—that’s a hugely helpful amount of coverage you can use throughout your pregnancy.
Read about the extended health benefits we offer that will help during your pregnancy.
To find out how we can help make your pregnancy a little easier through health benefits coverage, give us a call.